How to Write a Resume in 2021

[With PRO tips and real examples]

CV Illinois

Standing out in the job market means writing a resume that gets results, and fast!

Of course, not everyone is an expert in resume writing and sometimes professional help with your resume is needed.

If you’re stuck wondering what to do and how to make a resume for free, let us step in and help.

With our free resume builder and professional resume writing guide below you can get a step-by-step crash course that will get you up to speed in no time at all.

If you’re asking yourself “what should I write in a resume?” don’t panic.

We’re going to explain how to make a resume for a job that gives recruiters goosebumps.

In this resume writing guide, we explain the most important tips for filling out a resume successfully, including:

  • Choosing the perfect resume template
  • How to write a resume objective or resume summary that gets immediate results
  • The best ways to optimize your work experience, skills, and education
  • How to pick the perfect additional sections
  • What to do to polish up your finished resume

We’ll take you through everything you need to consider on how to create a resume and make everything look perfect when your dream job arises.

If you’re ready to get the help you need in writing a resume, let’s get started right away.

How to Format a Resume Like a Pro

Before considering exactly how to write a resume you need to nail the layout.

There’s more than one way to structure your document and how you do it can put greater emphasis on some elements over others.

This really counts if you’re trying to draw more attention to skills than experience or vice-versa.

The three main formats you’ll usually see mentioned are:

  • Reverse-chronological
  • Functional
  • Combination

Now we are going to have a look at the pros and cons of each to help you find the proper way to set up a resume for your precise circumstances:

1. Reverse-Chronological Resume

Advantages

Focuses on recent experience
Expected by most employers

Disadvantages

Extremely common in the job market
Not as creative as other options

2. Functional Resume

Advantages

Centered on skills
Can cover up gaps in experience

Disadvantages

Recruiters aren’t used to this format
May raise suspicions that you’re hiding something

3. Hybrid Resume

Advantages

Promotes both your skills and experience
Good for career changers

Disadvantages

Not well adapted for entry-level candidates
Employers aren’t used to this format

In almost all circumstances you should use a reverse-chronological template.

It’s the format that’s best optimized for recruiters as it focuses mostly on your responsibilities and experience.

That’s precisely what most of them want to see immediately.

Adding Your Contact Information and Personal Details

When planning how to write a good resume, you can’t ignore a fundamental feature: your contact information.

Without this, the recruiter can’t get in touch with you, and basically, you won’t get the job.

Luckily this is neither a very long nor difficult part of the resume to prepare.

But there are a few things you need to be careful with.

To get the idea, let’s see a real-life example, to understand what to do.

Do ✅

Bob Jenkins
Customer Service Manager

Telephone:
415 684 2902

Email:
bob_jenkins99@gmail.com

LinkedIn:
linkedin.com/bob-h-jenkins/

Right now this ticks all the right boxes.

We’ve got your name, telephone contact, and email address, as well as a link to your LinkedIn bio.

That’s everything the recruiter should need to get in touch with you quickly.

However, it’s frighteningly easy to make mistakes in this section too.

Let’s see how the sample above compares with a less-than-perfect example.

Don’t ❌

Bob Henry Fletcher Jenkins Esq B.Sc.
Customer Service Manager

Address:
43344 Hampton Drive
Stamford, CT 34433
United States

Telephone: 415 684 2902

Email: bhjrocks69@gmail.com

Twitter: @funkyfly233

Right, now there are a few things wrong here.

First of all, the candidate has really gone to town with their name.

Usually, your first name and last name are enough on their own.

They’ve also included their address, this isn’t a problem necessarily, but it is unneeded (as we’ll see later).

You’ll typically only need to put a mailing address if the company specifically requests that information.

Otherwise, it can be safely left off the page.

Lastly, we’ve got a completely inappropriate email address and social profile for a professional resume.

All of this is going to cause some head-scratching for the reader.

That sort of confusion is not going to help you get picked.

Let’s look more closely at what you should and shouldn’t add to the contact section.

Essential Contact Information

There are a few things that must always appear in your resume’s contact information.

These are essential to make sure a recruiter can get in touch with you as quickly as possible if they like what they see.

This will always consist of the following:

  • Name: include your first name and last name. You don’t need to add your middle name(s).
  • Telephone number: it’s best to use your cell phone contact so you can answer calls more easily.
  • Email address: remember to use an address that looks professional and you have easy access to.
  • LinkedIn profile: most recruiters will probably look you up on here anyway so why not help them find the right profile faster.

Yet this is pretty basic in resume writing terms in 2021. You can also go much further than this if necessary as we’ll see below.

Optional Contact Information

Nowadays, there are plenty of other contacts you can add when you’re tailoring your resume.

This might include your:

  • Mailing address: this might be requested for jobs where location is key
  • Personal website: to showcase personal projects or a portfolio of work
  • Social network accounts: for Twitter, Instagram, or Tiktok, if you work in social media

However, these should only go on the page if it suits the precise job in question.

Don’t add extra details needlessly as this could clog up your design with irrelevant information.

Remember, less is more.

Contact Information to Avoid

While there are lots of things you can add to the contact section, there are also plenty of things you will want to avoid here.

You shouldn’t include any of the following identifying details on your resume:

  • Headshot photo: in the US, photos can make it easier for discrimination to occur so HR recruiters in most professions prefer this to be left off.
  • Date of birth: these can also lead to discrimination and should be avoided.
  • Additional phone numbers or email addresses: more than one of these could confuse the recruiter and might lead to you missing key communications from them.

Start Strong With a Resume Summary or Resume Objective

Now let’s turn our attention to how to start a resume like a pro.

The best way to lead is with a resume header statement.

“What’s that”? You’re probably wondering.

Put simply, it’s a short paragraph to summarize who you are as a professional and/or what you’re aiming to achieve from your job hunt.

💡 Top tip: This is the very first thing the recruiter will see on the page so it needs to look spectacular.

However, there are a couple of options to choose from here, these include:

  • Resume summary statements: a quick round-up of your professional
  • Resume objectives: a mission statement for your job hunt

There isn’t one simple way to plan how to make your resume stand out ultimately it’s going to depend on your situation.

However, by getting the beginning right you can make a huge first impression that scores you an interview.

Let’s find out a little more about each of these options.

How to Write a Resume Summary Statement

So you’ve got a few years (or maybe more) experience in your career.

That means when it comes to writing a great resume you’ll need a resume summary statement.

The resume summary is like your handshake before you’ve even met the recruiter for real.

It’s a quick elevator pitch of sorts to get the reader hyped about the rest of your resume.

Let’s look over a real example from a barista resume to see how this works.

Do ✅

Personable and industrious barista with 3+ years of experience working at Starbucks and a popular local café in the Beverly Hills area. Proficient in customer service, food and beverage pairing, equipment maintenance, and inventory management. Able to make personalized coffee recommendations on over 100 different types of coffee, tea, and cocoa varieties. Has provided training to 3 new baristas and is adept at educating customers.

Give that candidate an apron and an espresso machine!

This is a well-balanced, quickly explains why this person is a safe pair of hands in a café and what they’ve achieved.

It covers all the bases.

However, be aware that an undercooked resume summary can do more harm than good.

Have a look at the sample of how not to write a resume summary below and you’ll see what we mean.

Don’t ❌

Student applying for a barista position, Keen to learn about customer service and how to deal with customers. I don’t have a great deal of experience, but I read about food and beverages in my free time.

This certainly isn’t going to perk up the recruiter in the right way.

At the moment it’s a bit too negative and doesn’t really sell the candidate as a whole.

In short, it’s not the best way to make a resume summary.

If you’re earlier on in your career and have less experience, as seems to be the case here, you might find another approach works better.

It’s cue time for a resume objective in this situation.

How to Ace a Resume Objective Statement

Right, so you’ve chosen to add a resume objective.

Smart choice.

In this situation, you need to show that you’re a man (or woman) on a mission.

You’ve got a career goal and despite a lack of experience you’re going to make it happen!

So what you’ll need to do is lead with that enthusiasm.

Like in our example below.

Do ✅

Recently qualified graduate with B.Sc. in Business Management. Possess strong attention-to-detail, first-class analytical skills. Seeking an assistant manager position in logistics to expand on skill set and grow professionally.

Now that’s how to write a killer resume objective.

Here we’ve not only shown we’re eager, but we’ve also shown the recruiter we bring some positive traits to the table.

Remember, the resume is all about you, but isn’t ALL about you.

You need to show that you’re bringing something to the table, something the example below kind of misses.

Don’t ❌

Fry cook urgently seeking assistant manager position in a leading logistics firm. I don’t yet have much experience in the sector but I am adaptable and eager to learn.

Ugh, this is tragic.

Whilst it’s clear about its goals, this resume is not going anywhere.

It’s essential to show that there’s something in it for the recruiter as well as the person being hired.

Whilst it’s an earnest attempt to explain the real situation, it’s not going to make much of an impact with the recruiter sadly.

How to Tailor Your Work Experience & Key Achievements

Ok, so the resume now has a second-to-none header.

Now it’s time to bring your ‘A-game’ to the work experience section.

This is the part of writing a professional resume that counts for a lot

Yet, your work experience section needs to cover a wide range of details.

💡 Top tip: Don’t repeat yourself in the work experience section. Introduce each feature at its earliest appearance in your career and let your experience tell a story of progression.

You need to quickly sum up your career in only a few bullet points.

Not only that, you have to tweak the experience you include so it remains relevant to the job at hand.

This has to be carefully done, so you get the best results.

Remember, our resume builder can get you moving faster with this process.

Click below to set up your optimized template in minutes

How to Lay Out the Resume Work Experience Section

Knowing how to set out your work experience section is going to be key to creating a winning resume.

In this part of the resume, you need to balance detail with brevity.

A lot of facts need to be processed by the recruiter quickly so they can instantaneously get the picture of what you’re like.

Like in the example below used for a healthcare administrator resume.

Do ✅

Healthcare Administrator
Yangtree Health Center | Seattle, WA
2017 – 2018

  • Managed schedules for 20+ general practitioners.
  • Led program to upgrade the center’s EHR system, improving site efficiency by 20%.
  • Prepared 6 detailed reports every month on health center performance.
  • Identified and interviewed prospective new doctors, nurses, and administrative staff.
  • Created safety awareness program following the latest OSHA advice.

Ok, looks like this job application is in a stable, healthy position.

No emergency treatment is needed here.

As you can see, making an effective resume experience section like the one above keeps things brief focused and adds a few numbers as extra evidence.

As you’ll see below, when things get too general the results are less than impressive.

Don’t ❌

Healthcare Administrator
Yangtree Health Center | Seattle, WA
2017 – 2018

  • Managed schedules for faculty doctors, nurses, and care staff.
  • Created a safe, clean, and organized environment for the patients and workforce.
  • Oversaw new training program

Ouch, now this is so bland it hurts.

There’s nothing that separates this from the millions of other healthcare administrator resumes that are submitted every day nationwide.

Quite simply, it’s going in the trash.

Optimizing your Resume Work Experience for Maximum Effect

Ok, so you know what you need to include in your work experience section.

But what is the best way to present it?

Here’s what you’ll need to succeed.

Each job entry should contain the following information:

  • Your job title
  • The company you worked for
  • The city, state your place of work was located
  • Your dates of employment
  • The key responsibilities and achievements you had there

Each entry should include around 4-6 bullet points covering your skills, duties, and achievements.

💡 Top tip: Always use examples of where you created proven value to the company you worked with.

These need to be carefully chosen and tailored to the specific job description.

You should also aim to include plenty of keywords related to the job.

This will be essential when up against applicant tracking systems (ATS).

Not only that they should provide some key evidence of what you’ve achieved. For example, by using numerical figures showing where you met KPIs.

By providing this kind of data, the hiring manager can instantly see where you can bring value to their business.

How Much Work Experience Should I Add to My Resume?

If you Google “how to write a resume” one of the biggest questions to come up is how much experience should go on the page.

It might seem tempting to add everything and anything about the places you’ve worked. That job when you worked in a gas station when you were 16, your volunteering experience in Guatemala…

You may want to throw it all in!

But hold on right there.

This might be how to write a resume on LinkedIn but with your paper resume, you’ll need to be a lot more selective.

Remember, you’ll not want to exceed 2 pages in length.

💡 Top tip: Less is often more in your work experience section. Make sure everything you include is relevant and adds to your hireability.

Each entry you include should also work back chronologically through your career from the present day back through your previous jobs. Starting with the most recent at the top.

However, this DOES NOT mean you should list every job you’ve ever had.

Never go back more than 10 years into the past and avoid including jobs that have no transferable skills with the opening you’re targeting.

How to Make Your Education Section Shine

So we’ve dealt with your work experience.

It’s looking great.

But there’s another section you won’t want to neglect. Your education section.

Whilst this area doesn’t get as much love as some other parts of the resume, your education and qualifications are going to be interesting reading to most employers.

Even if your job isn’t as reliant on qualifications this is something you should always feature.

One of the biggest considerations is how to fill out a resume education section for a job where you need to be highly qualified.

Like other parts of writing your resume, it’s all about relevance.

Let’s look at this machine learning engineer education section below to see what to do when you approach a job with a lot of educational necessities.

Do ✅

PhD in Machine Learning
Carnegie Mellon
2017-2021

  • Completed data mining project published on Hacker News.
  • Top 1% of students in data mining and regression analysis.
  • Research paper: Deep Residual Learning for Video Recognition, published in Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research.

MSc Degree in Computer Science
Santa Clara University
2015-2017

  • Achieved a 3.6 GPA.
  • Relevant coursework: machine learning, artificial intelligence practice, language and computation, information visualization, data-intensive systems.

BSc in Information Technology
Santa Clara University
2011-2015

  • Achieved a 3.8 GPA.
  • Member of Artificial Intelligence Student Club.

Alright, now this covers everything.

It goes through the entirety of the candidate’s machine learning education and gives the recruiter the most help possible in assessing their knowledge.

Remember, this much detail is only necessary if the job requires it. You don’t need to go into such depth if you’re applying for another type of position.

As usual, it’s most important to keep everything as relevant as possible.

Something our example below totally misses.

Don’t ❌

MSc Degree in Machine Learning
University of Washington

  • Member of Student Arts Club.
  • Worked at Wendy’s as a server.

Buzz wrong!

This is all over the place.

Yes, it shows you’ve earned a Master’s Degree in Machine Learning.

That’s going to earn you some plus points.

However, the stuff about working at Wendy’s and the art club totally adds nothing.

When you write your own resume for any job, your education section needs to do one thing more than anything else.

Tell the reader why you’re qualified for the position.

Anything else can be safely left off.

Matching Your Skills to the Job Description

One of the other big-hitting parts of your resume is the skills section.

Skills are going to be the things that can quickly get you noticed.

Almost every recruiter has a shopping list of skills they’re looking for that you’ll need to target for maximum effect.

💡 Top tip: Don’t overload your skills section. 6-8 bullet points should be more than enough to communicate your capabilities.

The job description can give you a great idea of which of these you should promote more than others.

As usual, it’s about thinking like the recruiter to pinpoint what will get you picked.

Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills: Which Matter More?

There are two types of skills you’ll need for your resume: hard skills and soft skills.

Both differ slightly but are vital when considering how to make a good resume for a job.

This is what each of them covers:

  • Hard skills: abilities you’ve learned from training or work experience.
  • Soft skills: abilities that you’ve developed from life experience.

As you can see, both have their place but which ones count the most?

Overall, hard skills will probably be the most important, considering they deal with your specific professional know-how.

But don’t leave out soft skills entirely.

These are indispensable too and in some cases, recruiters will be looking at these more closely.

Why?

Because most candidates will share the same hard skills when targeting an open position. However, soft skills will be the abilities that really set you apart.

What Skills Should Go On My Resume?

Writing the perfect resume means getting the mix of both hard and soft skills correct on paper.

However, choosing the best ones will really depend on two things.

You and the job.

This will be highly specific to you and your career background, profile, and the job description you’re aiming to fulfill.

However, many general skills can help you create an A+ resume.

Some key examples of these include:

Hard Skills

Engineering
Accounting
Programming
Mechanics
Writing
Physicals, biology, or chemistry
Customer service
Medicine
Childcare

Soft Skills

Communication
Empathy
Social skills
Critical thinking
Problem-solving
Analytical skills
Planning
Leadership
Organization

How to Boost Your Profile With Additional Resume Sections

Writing a good resume often means going beyond the basics.

We’ve examined the big beasts that are the work experience, skills, and education sections, but we can still go further.

💡 Top tip: Don’t go crazy. Only add a couple of extra sections if you think it’ll really interest a specific recruiter.

When you prepare your resume you can also add important additional resume sections to add a bit of extra pep to your file.

Of course, whether you use any or none of these is totally down to the context.

Some resumes can benefit from a few extra sections when the right situation arises, whilst others can be dragged down by them.

So, you need to choose carefully here.

When deciding what to use to make your resume you might pick out and use one of the following options:

Hobbies and Interests

Another way to show you’re perfect for the job is by proving that your interests suit the job.

Hence, adding a hobbies and interests section can prove vital to writing an effective resume.

This is because they can shore up your already impressive skills or work history.

Adding some info about how you play team sports, have an active lifestyle, or have hobbies that help improve your knowledge of the job can prove a total hit here.

Use some of your special interests strategically here and you could be well on your way to creating a strong resume.

Volunteer Work

Doing volunteer work is a amazing way to pick up career skills and employers know it.

Whether you’re starting out in your career or you’ve been set for a few years, proof of volunteering can be a real boost to your template for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it shows you’re a great collaborator, you’re proactive and you care about making a difference.

Not only that, in some professions it can demonstrate your passion for the job. This is especially true in medical fields like nursing.

Internship Experience

If you’re a recent graduate, an internship experience section can help your resume pack a punch.

Earlier on in your career internship experience is going to be crucial for getting your first ‘real job’.

However, after you’ve got a few years of practical experience with a company under your belt you won’t need to use this section anymore.

Don’t forget though, you also have the option to work internship experience into your main work experience section, if appropriate instead of an internship section.

Certifications and Awards

Are you honored in your field?

Do you have extra professional qualifications that might interest the recruiter?

Then a certifications or awards section would look just right on your resume.

Languages

Hablas español? Sprechen sie Deutsch? Parlez-vous Français?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, a) that’s pretty cool, and b) your resume could benefit from a languages section.

A sure-fire way to show you’re a cut above other applicants is to show you can speak a foreign language.

In fact, for jobs where you’ll be working internationally this might be totally essential.

Personal Projects

Have you been working on an exciting project in your spare time?

If so, you’ll definitely want to tell companies about it.

There are a couple of ways you can add this to your resume.

First of all you can create a bespoke personal projects section aside from the rest of your other details.

Alternatively, you can mention these activities below a relevant job description in your work experience section.

Papers and Publications

Have you been published before? You can also add this within its own section.

Using a papers and publications section you can list all your relevant written work as a short bibliography at the end of the resume.

Final Preparations to Perfect Your Resume

So now you’ve learned how to type a resume and added all your details to the page.

You’re super happy with your resume template. It’s looking good!

But you’re not quite ready yet.

There are still a few things you’ll need to do before your resume is prepared to head out into the big wide world.

Proofread Everything

When you read through your completed and perfected resume you should be on the lookout for errors in the following:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Formatting

Getting these wrong will nix your application immediately.

Either because of applicant tracking system (ATS) filters – which are notoriously merciless in this regard – or because they’ve been spotted by the recruiter.

Remember, spelling and grammar issues are the cardinal sin of resumes, so make sure you spot any that might have slipped in.

Not only that, you should go over everything you’ve written with a critical eye.

Look at every sentence and bullet point and really ask yourself, “does this sell me for the job”?

If the answer is no, you might consider cutting a few points or words here and there just to save on space.

Save Your Resume in the Right File Format

You should also be careful with the file format you use to save your resume.

Once again this is something ATS has its watchful eye on.

Using a complicated file format that is hard for a machine to read can still cause your pitch perfect resume to still the cut.

Because of this, it’s recommended that you save your document as either of the following:

  • PDF
  • TXT

Of course, this isn’t universal across the board.

Always keep a watch-out for when the recruiter requests the file be presented in a specific file type.

Check It’s Legible

Your resume is going nowhere if it’s hard to read.

If an ATS filter or an HR manager finds your file hard to read, you can bet you’re going to get the cut.

So what needs to be done to avoid this?

To make sure your resume is easy to read, remember the following points:

  • Use a consistent 11-12 pt font for the main text.
  • Write the headers in a consistent 14-16 pt font.
  • Type your resume in a clear legible font such as Times New Roman, Calibri, Ariel, Helvetica, or Cambria.
  • Use enough white space between paragraphs and lines so individual sentences stand out.

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Remember: Consistency is Key

Consistency is a must on a resume.

That goes for your experience and the overall layout.

Everything you write needs to tell a consistent story. The information mustn’t contradict other information, otherwise, you’re going to confuse the reader.

The same is true of formatting of dates, times, and punctuation such as full stops on bullet points.

Small discrepancies in these features can easily trip you up at the final hurdle, so be sure to look out carefully for any errors like this.

Last Step: Submitting Your Resume Successfully

Ok, so everything is now looking ship shape.

You’ve created a stunning resume that’s going to impress when it hits the recruiter’s inbox.

But it’s important to make sure it gets received correctly.

If you’re emailing in your resume it’s essential to use the precise email address or job portal specified by the company.

Simply posting it via LinkedIn Easy Apply or similar when there are clear instructions to the contrary isn’t going to put you at the front of the queue.

It would be a shame after all that effort preparing your resume was wasted because of something small like this.

Key Takeaways

If you want to prepare your own resume it doesn’t take much time or effort to make it spectacular.

By working smart you can whip up the perfect profile in no time at all.

In our guide on what to write on your resume we covered the following points:

  • Start your resume off strong with a focused resume summary or objective.
  • Tailor the work experience for the specific job description.
  • Add your qualifications and provide extra detail on your coursework and college memberships if relevant.
  • Add a bullet point list of around 6-8 hard and soft skills.
  • Include some additional sections to highlight features about yourself that are uniquely interesting.

Not too tricky, right?

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With all the resume writing process steps mapped out, all you need to worry about is filling it with the most alluring professional details possible.

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